Wellington Jazz Cooperative (WJC) friends and residents were lucky indeed to enjoy a visit from Michael Cain, a high-profile jazz pianist from the States. Here to teach, he was kind enough to share his talents not only with his students, but also with us, mere listeners.

Lovebite is far from the ideal cosy hall with an elegant piano on a modest stage, but that didn’t stop Cain from delivering a first-rate show that evening. Endeavouring to adapt to the venue, he switched back and
forth between piano and organ sounds on his electric keyboard. Surprisingly, both fit the place, proving again that it’s not the tools that matter but the hands that wield them.

Cain played a mix of standards and his own compositions. He was accompanied by Seth Boy on double bass and Mark Lockett on drums, two musicians with whom Wellington audiences are intimately familiar. I listened with pride as the domestic talents meshed with the foreign, making groovy works swing and ballads touch hearts tenderly.

But what was surprising and unique in Cain’s performance was his remarkable ability to metamorphose, chameleon-like, into different characters and to express their essence through his fingers—the way an actor expresses a character through body language and facial expression. Each piece had a different personality, and Cain proved an able impressionist.

This his first visit to exotic New Zealand, he discovered a friendly and affecting oasis quite unlike the bustle back home, where many are continually on edge.

With luck, Cain will enlarge his store of wonderful Aotearoan memories as he travels further south and will return soon to share them and his magnificent talent with us once again.